Analyzing willfulness claims/Section 101 denial/expert opinions excluded in part

It’s often helpful to cut something open to see how it works.  During World War II, the Navy cut open a damaged PBY Catalina flying boat and mounted it on a wall in a training facility in Pensacola to help train sailors who would be crewing its sister craft.  The cutaway PBY was a local fixture from 1944 to 1997, and was eventually moved to the nearby National Museum of Naval Aviation to sit under a fully restored version, where my youngest son Parker (who’s a certified WW II plane nut) got to study it up close.  (That I have a PBY on my work bench at the moment had nothing to do with the trip.  Honest)

Readers will recall that I posted last month that a Marshall jury in Judge Roy Payne’s court returned a verdict last month in favor of Ericsson in a case brought against TCL Communications and set damages at $75 million.  Two of the numerous pretrial rulings in that case were on the defendant’s motions for summary judgment under Section 101, and on the plaintiff’s claims of willful infringement, both of which Judge Payne denied.

Since the 101 ruling runs against the recent trend of more than half of 101 rulings going the defendant’s way, it is worth a review.  But the one I really want to focus on is the willfulness ruling because, as the Court wrote, “it is helpful to explain the standard as it stands today [post-Halo]” which began a metaphorical popping off of the fuselage panels on the standard in order to spend several pages poking around on what the wilfulness standard requires, and what factors need to be considered when deciding whether to bifurcate a willfulness claim.  When you’re done reading it, you might find yourself with the same thought I had after studying the interior of a full-size PBY – I have really not understood how this thing fits together, and I have really screwed up ….

Motion to Compel Defendants’ Jurisdictional Discovery Responses Granted

It sometimes happens that after plaintiffs move to transfer venue, or to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or improper venue (there’s a secret handshake for those of us that realize which of these motions really doesn’t as a practical matter, matter) the plaintiff seeks jurisdictional discovery.  Typically parties work out the content and timing of these issues, but every so often the cart gets in the ditch, and the court has to be called in to resolve the disagreements. That’s what happened in this case – and the specific issue was the temporal scope of jurisdictional discovery.  In this case

“Proportionality” in the EDTX – Recent Activity

Readers may recall that last fall I did an extensive post on the history of discovery standards in the Eastern District of Texas, beginning with Dan Quayle (no, that’s not a joke). At that time, an extensive survey of 2016 Eastern District of Texas cases – including patent and nonpatent cases, as well as published in unreported opinions, indicated that with one Implicit exception (now that is a joke) no case appeared to apply the new “proportionality” test added to FRCP 26 by the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A few cases quoted the rule and ruled specific discovery in or out, but only Judge Gilstrap’s Implicit opinion explicitly referenced the permitted discovery as being proportional to the needs of the case under the new standard.

At the time I testified before the advisory committee on the 2015 amendments, and through their enactment, I was of the opinion that the addition of the proportionality test was going to provide parties with a significant tool to delay or frustrate discovery previously considered permissible, especially in smaller cases, and in particular in the “bulk filer” or “high-volume” plaintiff cases, requiring parties to repeatedly seek court assistance to obtain discovery. But as the absence of court decisions applying the proportionality test indicates, that has not been the case, and parties have been able to resolve any questions regarding the proportionality of discovery without needing to resort to the court.

But when they do, it is worth noting. Recently, an Eastern District of Texas judge addressed a discovery issue in a patent case and explicitly referenced the proportionality test in his decision, as I analyze below.

Motion to Quash Third Party Subpoena Denied

Plaintiffs moved to quash subpoenas sent to third parties seeking bank records, arguing that they sought disclosure of confidential and proprietary business and personal information that was not relevant.  Judge Mazzant agreed that the bank records were relevant to Plaintiffs’ damages claims, noting that comprehensive protective orders sufficiently assure the confidentiality of documents containing trade secrets or other confidential commercial information. Click through for a copy of the Court’s order. diamond 006